Chicago is continuing to see an upswing in violent crime, with a pair of mass shootings on Tuesday leaving 11 people wounded and one dead.
Yet even as the streets are getting more dangerous, a new report shows that there are now fewer officers to patrol them. What’s more, the problem could get even worse than anyone could have imagined.
The police department cancels days off to conserve manpower
According to ABC 7 News, more officers left the department in 2019 and 2020 than joined, a phenomenon that grew even worse in 2021. That year saw a staggering 900 officers leave compared with just 51 who were hired.
John Catanzara serves as president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, and he said those numbers will leave the city in a precarious situation.
“In theory, we are probably 2,000-plus under our all-time high,” Catanzara was quoted as saying. “That doesn’t make anybody safe, that doesn’t make the streets safer which the last two years of homicide numbers show. That doesn’t make our officers any safer, it leads to exhaustion.”
ABC 7 has obtained an internal memo that states that all days off are being canceled between May 24 and May 31 as the short-handed force gears up for more mayhem. Catanzara predicts that will hurt morale.
“The escape from this job and the tragic things we see on a daily basis, to be able to go on vacation or even just spend time with your family at a barbecue, it is decompression time that is sorely needed,” he said.
Other departments are hiring
What’s more, things could get worse as other departments try and lure Chicago police away to suburban communities.
Another ABC 7 reported that the neighboring city of Aurora is undergoing a hiring drive in an attempt to boost numbers.
Aurora Police Sgt. Edgar Gallardo noted that his department isn’t unique in this regard, saying, “Everyone’s increasing pay and benefits and changing schedules to try and accommodate and bring in these candidates.”
ABC 7 noted that Chicago police now have “an unlikely ally” in the form of Father Michael Pfleger, a left-wing activist who has often criticized law enforcement.
“We need more police,” Pfleger acknowledged. “Offer the good ones incentives. Yes, we have a shortage. My area, Englewood and Auburn Gresham, is in need. We need officers who are not exhausted. These are good officers who are exhausted.”